Highland Park School District PTA
Megan Lembcke is a member of the Highland Park School District PTA and has been extremely influential in helping the schools adopt technology-based solutions to many problems. Five out of the six schools in the district are now using Volunteer Scheduler Pro to schedule their parent volunteers.
Samantha: How was the parent volunteer scheduling being done at Armstrong Elementary before you switched to VSP?
Megan: We had five different volunteer chairpeople... They would recruit people just by calling up their friends or send an email out, or we have a weekly email newsletter. There was no coordination. The red flag was when I got the library schedule in Microsoft Word, the cafeteria schedule in Excel, and then someone else just put everything in an email. The volunteer chairpeople are chosen because of their relationships with all the parents in school, and not their computer skills.
Samantha: What made you choose VSP over some of the other options out there?
Megan: I spent many, many, many hours trying to figure out which service we wanted to use. The two standout reasons were first, the interactive calendar view you guys offer was the easiest way to see shifts and the days [volunteers are scheduled]. And second, the sub requests feature, which is just life-changing for all the volunteers and the chairpeople. I'm really happy with the choice!
Samantha: What do you think is the benefit to using technology in schools?
Megan: It's the biggest time saver. We took the work of five different volunteer chairpeople and streamlined it into one position because the volunteers are choosing their own shifts and being sent [automatic] reminders.
Samantha: How do you get all your shifts filled with volunteers?
Megan: We schedule on a recurring basis to avoid it being an ongoing chore to find volunteers to cover the shifts. [VSP's sub request feature] definitely helped a lot of volunteers feel more comfortable about committing to a shift for the entire year. At Armstrong, I would say 95% of our sub requests are filled really really quickly.
Samantha: How do you get busy parents who can't commit to a regular shift involved?
Megan: Many of them work and the sub request feature allows those parents to get involved in more ways. They receive sub requests and fill in if they're available. That's been a big bonus and I think it's one of the reasons why all the sub requests get filled.
Samantha: What do parents and teachers like best about the online scheduling?
Paul: Parents like having the automated sub request feature, number one. They also like being able to see the calendar online and choose their shifts. They like the text message and automatic email reminders. Historically, parents would go to "meet the teacher night," there would be all these pieces of paper out on the table, and you'd sign up to volunteer for whatever you wanted. One of our complaints was that if you have three kids at the elementary school, each teacher does something different. Our principal is really on board with everything VSP is providing for the school and so he's going to mandate that the teachers use this website for their listings, and I think the parents will be really excited about it. People will be able look at their calendar and to go online and make their choices. The teachers are excited about that too.
Samantha: Do you have any advice for other PTAs looking for a scheduling solution?
Paul: Don't go for just a free one just because it's a PTA. The pricing at Rotunda is very reasonable and I think it's well worth the money. I think it's a negligible amount in the scheme of things. It's so life-changing for all of the volunteers that it's worth it. The other great thing about you guys is that it's like an organic product that you're changing all the time. I like that you guys are always receptive to my suggestions! I think that your tech support is amazing... you've always been super nice and responsive. I have somebody who's going to take over the administration of this in the fall and the first thing I told her is that if you don't know something, they are so amazing! And so I think it's a big relief to know that you guys are there when we have questions.
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